Cullen: First-Game Observations

Scott Cullen
10/8/2010 10:28:37 AM
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Some notes from the first day of the NHL season, including a spectacular Oilers debut, the Flyers' new goaltender and a good opportunity for Cullen.

"Well, you wanted something better man,
You wished for something new,
Well, you wanted something beautiful,
Wished for something true"

- Wheels, Foo Fighters

The talk going into the season was how great the Edmonton Oilers rookies would be, eventually.  Expectations won't be slowed down by the show the Oilers put on against the arch-rival Calgary Flames last night, winning 4-0 with rookie Jordan Eberle making a spectacular shorthanded tuck-and-drag move on the rush for his first NHL goal.  Shortly thereafter, Eberle banked a shot in off Shawn Horcoff's shin pad to give him a two-point night.

Eberle was expected to be among the top scoring rookies and there's obviously no reason to think otherwise.  Now, he just needs (more accurate) RW position eligibility.

Oilers G Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 37 Flames shots for the shutout.  If the Oilers get goaltending like that, who knows what's in store for this team this year?

Somewhat of a surprise starter in goal for the Flyers at Pittsburgh, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 29 of 31 shots for the win.  Considering Brian Boucher is his competition, Bobrovsky could establish himself as the Flyers' starter in short order while Michael Leighton is out with a back injury.

Not only did my namesake pick up 1 G and 1 A in the Wild's season opener, but C Matt Cullen led all Minnesota forwards with 23:32 of ice time, playing with both power play units while D Marek Zidlicky is sidelined by a groin injury.  Cullen always falls between 30 and 49 points, and it's tough to predict a breakthrough for a 34-year-old, but the offensively-needy Wild may give him the opportunity to score more this year.

Careful not to get crushed in the stampede to pick up Brandon Sutter off the waiver wire yesterday afternoon, after he scored two goals in the first game of the season.  Sutter is intriguing for those in deep leagues, though his low PIM total can hurt his roto value, but his two goals didn't even have to beat Wild G Niklas Backstrom, redirecting a Jussi Jokinen pass into the empty cage for his first and knocking in a rebound off his skate for the second.

Back in the NHL after a year in the KHL, Hurricanes D Anton Babchuk scored a goal and while he played only 16:39, he got 3:23 of power play time (four 'Canes defencemen had at least 3:00 minutes on the PP) and was particularly aggressive joining the attack. 

Maple Leafs G Jean-Sebastien Giguere was sharp, stopping 27 of 29 Canadiens shots for the opening night win.  In a contract year, Giguere could make a huge difference in the Maple Leafs' hopes this year.  Naturally, the better that Giguere plays, the less likely he is to lose playing time to Jonas Gustavsson.

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson loves him some Kris Versteeg.  After saying he ought to be shot if Versteeg isn't playing 20 minutes a night, Wilson gave the winger 22:57 against the Habs, exceeded only by Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle

Versteeg produced no points and a minus-1, but that kind of ice time is a major step up for a player who played 15:43 per game with the Blackhawks last season.

As preseason was winding down, I was starting to like the chances for Tomas Kopecky to be a productive player for the Blackhawks.  Playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, most anyone could put up some points and Kopecky opened the season with two assists.  At the very least, keep an eye on his progress.

We knew the Blackhawks were going to lean heavily on their stars, after shedding their Stanley Cup depth, but D Duncan Keith stepped right in for 33:39 in the Blackhawks' OT loss.  Defencemen John Scott and Jordan Hendry both played under seven minutes for Chicago.

At the other end of the ice-time spectrum, Flyers LW Nikolay Zherdev played only 11:26 in Pittsburgh.  Dan Carcillo and Jody Shelley were the only Flyers forwards to get fewer minutes.

Penguins superstars Sidney Crosby (24:42) and Evgeni Malkin (23:05) got major ice time, but came up with nothing but a minus-1 apiece for their efforts against Philly; a little troubling considering D Chris Pronger didn't play for Philadelphia, but a hot goaltender can stymie even the best of scorers.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at  For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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